The Hungarian Uprising 1956 Budapest Hungary The Life And Death Of Imre Nagy

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The 1956 Hungarian Uprising 


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The bodies of civilian Hungarians killed in Budapest by invading Soviet forces. Oct 23  Image The few good men


The ill fated Hungarian Uprising began in Budapest on October 23rd with a peaceful rally asking for reforms and more freedom to express political thought. As the students listed the measures they wanted interior ministry police began to arrest the student leaders and fired tear gas to disperse the main crowd. When some students tried to free their arrested peers – the police fired shots into the crowd.

Later in the evening outraged soldiers their officers and citizens of Budapest came out of their barracks joined up with students and together they pulled a statue of Stalin down amidst chants of “Russians go home” and “Away with Gerő” (the Communist Party Leader). The ruling Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers Party made a request for military support from Moscow who that night sent Soviet tanks into the centre of Budapest.

A day later (25th October) thousands of protesters gathered in Budapest’s Parliament Square. When they refused to disperse the Soviet tanks opened fire on them. Witnesses give different accounts of the consequences but at least a dozen protesters were shot dead and between 150 and 200 were injured. The shootings forced the Hungarian Workers Party leader Ernő Gerő leader to resign. He was replaced by Janos Kadar. .

Imre Nagy the Prime Minister in a radio broadcast said he had taken over the leadership of the Government as Chairman of the Council of Ministers.” He was going to implement “the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics to realise our national aim – the radical improvement of the workers’ living conditions.”

Three days later on the 28th Nagy and supporters took control of the Hungarian Workers Party. Elsewhere in Hungary revolutionary workers councils were formed. Newspapers and radio stations, that had been formerly been controlled by the communists endorsed Nagy’s actions and demanded the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary.

On October 30th Nagy announced he was abolishing the one party state and freeing political prisoners. On November 1st he announced that Hungary was no longer going to take part in the Warsaw Pact as it now a ‘neutral’ state.

Many observers at the time believe that his announcements on November 1st were the final straw as far as the Soviet President Nikita Krushchev was concerned and prompted him to send the Soviet Army and soldiers from the Warsaw Pact Countries into Hungary on November 4th. As the Soviet forces entered the country Nagy broadcast an appeal in Hungarian and English for international help but his pleas were ignored by the west. The Russian forces initially met resistance throughout Hungary but their superior strength and numbers quickly prevailed.

During the Hungarian Uprising it is thought that around 20,000 people were killed, mostly by the Soviet forces that entered the country on Nov 4th. nearly all during the Soviet intervention. Imre Nagy other members of his government were arrested and replaced by a pro Stalinist regime led by Janos Kadar.

Nagy was imprisoned before being executed for treason on June 16th 1958 a fate that he shared with around 400 colleagues. Others members of his government remained in prison until they died.


The Life & Death Of Imre Nagy

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image and more info from the Hungarian Spectrum

Imre Nagy was born of a working class family on June 7th 1896 in Kaposvar Hungary. After a basic education he became an apprentice to a locksmith before joining the Austrian Hungarian Army when when ww1 broke out. In 1915 he was captured by the Russians and imprisoned in a Siberian prison of war come. He later escaped and joined the Communist Red Army until the end of the Russian Revolution. Whilst he was a member of the Red Army he joined the Russian Communist Party.

There are differing accounts of his life from this point. Some suggest he returned to Hungary in 1918 for a year working for with Bella Kun in the setting up of the Hungarian Communist Party. He is then said to have fled Hungary following the new government, led by Mikolos Horthy, purge on the communists in 1920/21. Other accounts suggest he returned to Hungary in 1921. After 1921 his where abouts are disputed some reports say he kept a low profile in Hungary others that he lived in exile Russia.

Imre Nagy is known to have joined the Russian Communist Party in 1930 and worked for the Russia Government in several posts. The most significant of these was ‘Comintern’ which advocated the expansion of the communism internationally under one state (Russian) rule. He worked in the Hungarian division of this organisation. Some historians believe that whilst at Comintern he was informer for the NKVD (later the KGB) but this is not certain.

When the Red Army liberated Hungary in 1945 Nagy returned to Hungary. He became Minister of Agriculture in the first pro soviet government and Interior Minister in the succeeding Government which actively deported people of German origin. In 1953 he became Prime Minister but his premiership was terminated in 1955 by Moscow when he tried to introduce economic and political.reforms. In the elections of 1956 he was re-elected as Prime Minister but this time on a Marxist but anti soviet ticket. Though he remained a fervent communist he announced that he wanted Hungary constitutionally to be a multi -party state. To this end he declared on Nov 1st 1956 that Hungary was withdrawing from the Soviet ‘Warsaw Pact’ Treaty.

When the Soviet forces occupied Hungary on November 4th Imre Nagy fled to the Yugoslav Embassy. On the 22nd of November he left the Embassy on the understanding that he would be able to leave Hungary but the the Soviet Forces reneged on this agreement and arrested him. He was charged with treason for plotting to overthrow the Hungarian State along with about 400* other people. He was found guilty at his subsequent trial which was held in secret . He was sentenced to death and hung on June16th 1958. He was buried in an un marked grave at the Kozma Cemetery in Budapest. His fate was not made public until after his death.

As Hungary Communist rule collapsed in 1989 his remains were exhumed and after a public service which over 90,000 people attended he was reburied in his original grave.

*Note Many of these prisoners were given life sentences and remained in prison until they died.

See also Budapest – Origins & History

Recommended Reading: On Communism, in Defense of the New Course. by Imre Nagy – Publisher: F. A. Praeger. Place of Publication: New York. 1st Edition: 1957



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